Old testament

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Old Testament books
History books


"Little" ( Book of the Twelve Prophets )

As the Old Testament (abbreviated AT ; from Latin testamentum , translation from Hebrew בְּרִית berît or Greek διαθήκη diathēkē "covenant"; today often also: First Testament or Hebrew Bible ), Christian theology has referred to the Holy Scriptures since around 180 AD of Judaism , which has been there since about 100 BC. Are called Tanach , as well as some more from the 250 BC. Septuagint originated in BC . It was originally written in Hebrew , with smaller parts also in Aramaic .

The early Christianity were these writings as the Word of God , which Jesus Christ as Messiah of Israel and the nations announced and erwiese in its interpretation. That is why the ancient church defended its validity as evidence of revelation against Christian minorities who rejected this validity. Their selection and arrangement were finalized by 350; the Old Testament became the Christian Bible together with the New Testament (abbreviated NT) .

The Bible canon of the Old Testament differs between the Christian denominations : While Protestantism divided the 24 books of the Tanakh into 39, Catholicism and Orthodoxy also kept books from the Septuagint , so that the Catholic canon comprises 46 books and the Orthodox canon up to 51 books .


The early Christians found the Torah, prophets and other Jewish holy scriptures as an as yet unfinished Bible. However, they did not call it the “Old Testament”, but used the same or similar terms as the Judaism of that time: “the Scriptures” or “the Scriptures” (Greek γράμμα gramma , γραφή graphē ), sometimes abbreviated to “the law” (Greek νόμος nomos for Hebrew תוֹרָה Torah ), but mostly “the law and the prophets” or “Moses and the prophets”, once also “law, prophets and psalms” ( Lk 24.44  EU ) analogous to the one introduced around 100 BC. The usual three-way division of the Jewish Bible canon .

The Latin testamentum (derived from testari , "to testify") is an imprecise translation of the Greek term διαθήκη (diathēkē), which in the Septuagint describes the last verbal or written declaration of intent of a dying person in the sense of a disposition. In the NT the term never refers to the entire Jewish scriptures. Paul of Tarsus referred διαθήκη (diathēkē) in 2 Cor 3:14  EU to God's revelation of will on Mount Sinai , the tradition ( Ex 19-24  EU ) of which was regularly read orally in the synagogue service . He contrasted it with God's ultimate will for reconciliation, which was realized in the vicarious judicial death of Jesus Christ on the cross and thus fulfilled and renewed God's covenant with the people of Israel. A natural prerequisite for the juxtaposition of the old and the new covenant for all early Christians was the identity of YHWH , the God of Israel, with the father of Jesus Christ, and the unbreakable validity of his blessing to Abraham to become the “father of many peoples” ( Gen 12.3  EU ) that Jesus Christ began to fulfill ( Heb 6:13 ff.  EU ).

Melito of Sardis around 170 for the first time referred to all written testimonies of God's will to salvation before the appearance of Jesus Christ, in contrast to the apostolic writings (in Greek) as the “Old Testament”. The translation of diathēkē with the Latin word testamentum is first documented by Tertullian around 200 .

The attribute “old” was interpreted in the substitution theology of Christian anti-Judaism in the sense of “outdated”, “replaced”, “repealed” and “no longer valid”. This was connected with the devaluation of Judaism, which in Christianized Europe often resulted in its oppression and persecution.

In order to avoid this traditional devaluation, nowadays more and more Christians, theologians and churches refer to the Tanach or the OT First Testament or the Hebrew Bible . In doing so, they distance themselves from Christian anti-Judaism and emphasize the common basis of both religions. For centuries, anti-Judaistic prejudices dominated the interpretation of the New Testament, as described under Anti-Judaism in the New Testament . Since 1945 this has been increasingly criticized theologically (see Churches and Judaism after 1945 ). The question of authorship is discussed in more detail in the Torah article .

Role in the New Testament

For Jesus of Nazareth and his followers , a preliminary form of the Tanach with the Torah , books of prophets, psalms, the book of Daniel and proverbs was the Holy Scriptures. Jesus related his preaching to it from the beginning of his ministry and understood it as a valid interpretation of the will of God revealed in it ( Mt 5,17  EU ). Without hearing, reading and interpreting biblical texts, which were understood as God's current word, the early Christians - like all Jews of that time - were unable to convey their message of the coming of the kingdom of God.

Even after Jesus' death, Israel's Bible remained the norm from which and in response to which the Christians proclaimed the Messiah who had come and returned. Thus, all creed formulas of the Jerusalem early community consistently emphasize the conformity to Scripture, i.e. the agreement and predestination of their faith with Israel's salvation history. For them, Jesus' death and resurrection was the goal of this story, recognizable only in the Holy Scriptures, which confirmed the biblical promises of a final transformation of the world.

By retelling, writing and teaching the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of God's covenant history with Israel, the early Christians created a "New Testament". The Gospels , Congregational Letters and Acts of the Apostles depict the appearance, death and resurrection of the Jew Jesus Christ as the final fulfillment and renewal of the Israel Covenant, so that the message of the NT can only be proclaimed together with the OT.

The term “Old Testament” as a name for a collection of the scriptures of Israel does not appear in the NT. In terms of the matter, however, in the NT the “first covenant” of God with the people of Israel ( Heb. 8,7  EU ) is in opposition and in indissoluble relation to the “new covenant” of God with Israel and all peoples through the gift of Jesus Christ ( Mk 14 , 24  EU ). The attribute “old” is only justified in this Christian self-image: According to this, the relationship of the two testaments to one another is indissoluble, insofar as the old precedes God's new covenant in terms of time and content.

However, this does not mean either in the NT itself or according to later church teaching the obsolescence and replacement of the Israel Federation to which the Hebrew Bible attests. For Christians, with the appearance of Jesus Christ, no new word of God appeared next to the "old" one. But this “ Son of God ” is the “Word of God made flesh” ( Jn 1:14  EU ) and as such represents the election of Israel to the people of God, in which the election of humanity is included from eternity .

According to the NT, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in particular fulfilled God's will on behalf of all people. He has the Israel definitively confirmed revelations given, covenants and promises unbeatable reaffirms the outspoken in Israel Bible's promise of a "new covenant" ( Heb 8.8  EU cites Jer 31.31 to 32  EU ) and all the peoples in this covenant included.

The person and work of Jesus Christ thus embody the “new” will of God for Christians by finally fulfilling and confirming his “old” will, the first mention of Israel. The consistent reference to the Bible of Israel is decisive for the entire early Christian proclamation. Without it, the universal meaning of Jesus Christ cannot be stated or understood.

For Christians, however, the one will of God, which the "Old" Testament already reveals, has received a different, new status: From now on this will only applies in the interpretation that Jesus Christ gave him through his teaching, his death and gave his resurrection. Accordingly, all individual commandments in the one commandment of Jesus Christ, namely the double commandment to love God and neighbor , are “canceled” and subordinate to it ( Mk 12:30–31  EU ).


In the course of the canonization of the Tanach to the Christian Old Testament, its tripartite division and the Torah (the Pentateuch) were kept unchanged, but some individual books of the second and third parts were arranged and arranged differently, others were added to these two parts.

In most of the Christian canon lists of the 2nd to 4th centuries, the Nevi'im (prophets) were divided and some of the Ketuvim (scriptures) moved between "front" and "rear" prophets. Thus the former were withdrawn from the scriptural prophets as history books . The books of Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicle, which belong to the scriptures in the Tanakh, moved into the second main part and were classified there almost historically correct: The book of Ruth is now, according to its opening and closing verses, between the books of Judges and Samuel his act takes place in the time of the judges and Naomi's son was considered the grandfather of King David . Since Ezra and Nehemiah followed the exile , their books were placed behind the chronicle, which in turn continues the royal period. They are followed by the books of Tobit, Judith, Esther and Maccabees according to the consecutive times and themes described in them. This created a coherent description of the history of Israel from the conquest to the restoration of a separate Jewish state in which the Torah and the temple cult were again valid. This was read as closed and past rather than as a future determined and opened by unfulfilled prophetic promise.

The remaining ketuvim moved behind the history books. The writings Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon ascribed to Solomon were supplemented by the wisdom of Solomon and Jesus Sirach. The book of Job came first before the psalms: Because Job was considered older than the psalms ascribed to King David because of his godly devotion, which is reminiscent of the patriarchs . This collection of prayer begins with lamentation and ends with praise of the rulership of God : in it the Christians found the transformation of the doubts and accusation of Job expressed into the eschatological joy over the victory of Jesus Christ.

The lamentations of Jeremiah were consequently placed in the book of the prophets, Jeremiah, and the book of Daniel in the “great” prophets concerning the future of the whole world. It was therefore not regarded as a wisdom, but as an apocalyptic text that carries on earlier prophetic promises. As the books of the prophets came to an end, they became the promise of Jesus Christ to Christians.

Scriptures that remained topical for Judaism, its festivals and its worship services, on the other hand, had more paradigmatic, allegorical and typological significance for Christians since the destruction of the temple (70 AD) .


Since the separation of Christianity from Judaism, Christian Gnosticism developed , which regarded the Old Testament as a document of a rejected, outdated and anti-Christian religion and excluded it from its own faith. Marcion compared the creation by the evil, materialistic God of Israel to the redemption by the good, spiritual spirit of Jesus in a dualistic way and therefore presented a biblical canon that has been cleansed of all Jewish influences.

From 150 the future church rejected such attempts by adopting the "Old Testament" in the form handed down by the Septuagint as a fully valid word of God and placing it in front of its New Testament. This followed the view of the early Christians, according to which belief in Jesus Christ affirmed God's covenant with Israel, but did not replace it. This made it theologically impossible to separate the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the election of Israel. The church itself established a normative authority for the interpretation of the New Testament to which later attempts at reform in religion and politics could refer. Very early on there were various translations of parts of the Septuagint into Latin, which are now summed up under the multifaceted term Vetus Latina . Since 385, Jerome's Septuagint was completely translated into Latin , the Vulgate , which then superseded the old translations and became authoritative in Catholicism .

Interpretation history


In patristicism , Augustine of Hippo coined the famous sentence that the reformers took up again:

"Novum Testamentum latet in Vetere, et in Novo Vetus patet."

"The New Testament is hidden in the old, the old is revealed / revealed in the new."

What is meant is that Jesus Christ and his work of redemption on the cross are already hinted at in the Old Testament. For this, not only individual passages such as Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53 EU are used, but also the meaning of the entire Old Testament, which wants to show that man - even if he tries - cannot keep God's commandments (cf.e.g. . RomEU ; 7 EU , Galatians ). The New Testament is thus seen as a continuation of the old, without which it would have no root or basis.

Nevertheless, in its history the church "forgot" the clear statement in Rom. 11 : 2–18  EU :

"God did not cast off his people, whom he had previously chosen [...] You do not carry the root, but the root carries you!"

Wherever the hopes and promises of Israel related to this world were reinterpreted in neo-Platonic and allegorical terms, there Christianity became the new ruling religion of the Roman Empire .

The Christian appropriation of the Old Testament and the dogmatic ecclesiastical "disinheritance" of Judaism ( substitution theology ), which has been consistent since the 3rd century , gave rise to pogroms against Jews and other minorities in times of crisis and "justified" them throughout the European Middle Ages until well into modern times .

time of the nationalsocialism

During the time of National Socialism , the “ German Christians ” tried again to eradicate everything “Jewish” from the Christian faith and to transform it into a “national religion”. The latently applied anti-Judaism, which had also gained a foothold in parts of the church, was one of the essential prerequisites for this arbitrary interpretation of Christianity and thus also the crimes of the Holocaust . The entire Old Testament was largely ignored.

Revaluation since 1945

A Judeo-Christian dialogue grew out of this devastating experience from around 1960 . He inspired the discussion about the OT, its relevance for the exegesis of the NT and the Christian faith in Christian theology .

Historical research in the 19th and early 20th centuries recognized the independence of Israel's traditions, especially its prophecy and messianism . But it was only the unmistakable effects of Christian anti-Judaism up to the Shoah that prompted the churches and New Testament science to deal with possible roots of anti-Judaism in the New Testament .

In the Catholic area since the Second Vatican Council , in the German Protestant area - especially since the Church Days of the 1960s - this has resulted in a reassessment of OT and Judaism in church dogmatics and everyday practice. The Rhenish Synodal Resolution of 1980 on the relationship between Jews and Christians was groundbreaking here. In the meantime, most of the regional churches of the EKD have adopted similar declarations and partially adopted them in their church constitutions.

One of his central insights was: If the Christian majority of Europe had perceived their Jewish roots and recognized God's “uncancelled covenant” with Israel (Rom 11: 2 / Martin Buber ), then they would have followed the double commandment of love towards the Jewish minority and would have been more likely to do so taught European societies to do the same. Then the indifference to the fate of the Jewish people during the Nazi era could not have happened.

Christian theology tries to take this into account linguistically in order to express the lasting validity of the scriptures contained in the Old Testament and to prevent the misunderstanding that “old” means “out of date” or “out of date”. B. First Testament (Heb. 8: 7, 13; 9: 1, 15, 18: according to the Christian Old Testament scholar Erich Zenger ).

The third memorandum “Jews and Christians” of the EKD from 2000 states that the Christian devaluation of the Old Testament can only be permanently overcome if Judaism is recognized as a permanent, independent living witness of the Hebrew Bible. This has far-reaching consequences for biblical research, exegesis, sermons, confirmation classes, and the organization of church services.

Historical-critical research

Old Testament science is a sub-discipline of theology devoted to philological and historical research into the Old Testament. It includes the following areas:

The Old Testament science is assigned as auxiliary sciences :

A scientist in the field of the Old Testament is Old Testament called.

See also

Portal: Bible  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of the Bible


  • Gleason Leonard Archer : Introduction to the Old Testament. Volume 1. Verlag der Liebenzeller Mission , Bad Liebenzell, 1987. ISBN 3-88002-300-X .
  • Gleason Leonard Archer: Introduction to the Old Testament. Volume 2. Verlag der Liebenzeller Mission, Bad Liebenzell, 1989. ISBN 3-88002-319-0 .
  • Gerhard J. Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, Heinz-Josef Fabry u. a. (Ed.): Theological dictionary for the Old Testament (ThWAT). Kohlhammer Verlag, 10 volumes, 1973 ff.
  • Alfons Deissler : The basic message of the Old Testament - a theological perspective. Herder, Freiburg (1972; reprint of the completely revised 11th edition 1995) 2006 ISBN 3-451-28948-2 .
  • Franz Delitzsch and Carl Friedrich Keil : Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament (BC). Dörffling & Franke Leipzig PDF download .
  • Walter Dietrich, Wolfgang Stegemann (Ed.): Biblical Encyclopedia Volume 1–12. Stuttgart 1996 ff.
  • Klaus Dorn: Basic knowledge of the Bible: The Old Testament (= UTB 4317). Paderborn 2015, ISBN 978-3-8252-4317-3 .
  • Erhard S. Gerstenberger: Theologies in the Old Testament: plurality and syncretism of Old Testament belief in God. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart u. a. 2001, ISBN 3-17-015974-7 .
  • Jan Christian Gertz (Ed.): Basic information Old Testament (= UTB 2745). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2006, ISBN 3-8252-2745-6 .
  • Martin Hose : Short History of Greek Literature. From Homer to the end of antiquity, Munich: C. H. Beck, 1999.
  • Otto Kaiser : Introduction to the Old Testament. Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, Gütersloh, 4th edition, 1978, ISBN 3-579-04458-3 .
  • Reinhard G. Kratz: The composition of the narrative books of the Old Testament. Basic knowledge of biblical criticism (= UTB 2157). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2000, ISBN 3-8252-2157-1 .
  • Christoph Levin: The Old Testament (= Beck's series of knowledge 2160). C. H. Beck, Munich 2003, 2nd edition, ISBN 3-406-44760-0 .
  • Gerd Lüdemann: Old Testament and Christian Church. Attempt at enlightenment . zu Klampen Verlag, Springe 2006, ISBN 3-934920-96-9 .
  • Gerhard von Rad : Theology of the Old Testament. Volume 1–2, Munich, 8th edition 1982/1984.
  • Hartmut Gese : From Sinai to Zion. Old Testament contributions to biblical theology. Munich 1974, ISBN 3-459-00866-0 .
  • Hartmut Gese: Old Testament Studies . Tübingen 1991, ISBN 3-16-145699-8 .
  • Martin Rösel : Biblical Studies of the Old Testament: The canonical and apocryphal writings. Neukirchen-Vluyn 1996, 5th edition 2006 with learning overviews by Dirk Schwiderski, ISBN 978-3-7887-2060-5 .
  • Konrad Schmid : literary history of the Old Testament. Scientific Book Society Darmstadt, 2nd edition 2014, ISBN 978-3-534-16521-6 .
  • Werner H. Schmidt : Old Testament Faith. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 9th edition, 2004, ISBN 3-7887-0655-4 .
  • Werner H. Schmidt: Introduction to the Old Testament. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York, 5th edition 1995, ISBN 3-11-014102-7 .
  • Hans-Christoph Schmitt : Workbook for the Old Testament (= UTB 2146). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-8252-2146-6 .
  • Heinz-Günther Schöttler : Christian sermon and Old Testament. Attempt at a homiletic criteriology. Schwabenverlag, Ostfildern 2001, ISBN 3-7966-1021-8 . (733 p .; criteria for dealing with the OT in the Christian proclamation)
  • Erich Zenger u. a .: Introduction to the Old Testament (= Kohlhammer Study Books Theology 1,1). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2004, 5th edition, ISBN 3-17-018332-X .
  • Erich Zenger: The God of the Bible. Non-fiction book on the beginnings of Old Testament belief in God. Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-460-31811-2 .
  • Walther Zimmerli : Outline of Old Testament theology (= Theological Science 3.1). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1999, 7th edition, ISBN 3-17-016081-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Old Testament  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Text history
Biblical studies
Relation to Judaism and the New Testament
Old Testament or Old Testament

Individual evidence

  1. Among other things Num 14.44  EU .
  2. Among other things, Mt 26.28  EU .
  3. Article Bible II / III, Theologische Realenzyklopädie. Volume 6, Walter de Gruyter, 1st edition, Berlin 1980, pp. 29 and 43.
  4. Article Bible II / III, Theologische Realenzyklopädie Volume 6, Walter de Gruyter, 1st edition, Berlin 1980, p. 9 f.
  5. Article Bible II / III, Theologische Realenzyklopädie Volume 6, Walter de Gruyter, 1st edition, Berlin 1980, p. 27.
  6. Article Bible II / III, Theologische Realenzyklopädie Volume 6, Walter de Gruyter, 1st edition, Berlin 1980, p. 28.
  7. Ernst-Joachim Waschke:  Old Testament . In: Religion Past and Present (RGG). 4th edition. Volume 1, Mohr-Siebeck, Tübingen 1998, Sp. 371.
  8. Erich Zenger: The four-part structure of the First Testament. In: Introduction to the Old Testament , Kohlhammer, 2006, 6th edition, p. 28 f.
  9. Quaestiones in Heptateuchum 2, 73
  10. ^ Carlo Lindberg: Against the Aryan Paragraph. In: Jewish newspaper . December 16, 2007, archived from the original on December 16, 2007 . ;Christians and Jews III: 5. Orientations in Christian-Jewish conversation. EKD memorandum No. 144, March 14, 2000 .